MHCI Capstone Project

A seven-month research & development project course

If you talk to any of our MHCI alumni, they'll probably say the MHCI Capstone Project is both the most valuable and most challenging experience of the program. While the curriculum and work for this project are demanding, it provides our students with valuable user-centered research, iterative designs and product development experience before they step outside of our halls and back into the business world.

Capstone Project Overview

The Capstone project is made up of the core classes 05-671 HCI Project I and 05-672 HCI Project II. The classes are taken in consecutive semesters, beginning in spring and completing in the summer. During the spring, students complete their remaining core classes and electives as well as HCI Project I. In the summer term, students are expected to be full-time on their capstone project and typically only are enrolled in HCI Project II. Part-time students must make arranges to be full-time students during HCI Project II in the summer semester due to the demand of the project.

The Capstone project is structured to cover the end-to-end design process of a product development lifecycle. MHCI students work in teams of 4-6 students with companies ranging from nimble startups to globally recognized brands.

Working with faculty mentors and their industry partners, teams produce user research, product designs and interactive prototypes to improve or design new applications to a partner's existing technology. The project culminates with a presentation of the teams' final prototypes at the end of the summer.

The Work

The first semester focuses on getting to know the sponsor and their company, setting scope and secondary research like competitive analysis and user research. At the end of the first semester, students are required to produce their findings, which include a documented report, photographs, video, field notes, models and frameworks.

The second semester includes an ideation phase, where students use their data to design a prototype that meets the needs, desires and problems of their users. The remainder of the summer is spent iteratively programming and testing that design, which should be put through at least three iterative phases. At the end of summer, the teams will have produced a designed, developed and tested prototype.

The Student Teams

Each team is comprised of four to six MHCI students completing their final two semesters. Teams are interdisciplinary, with students from design, technology and social sciences backgrounds. Each team is matched with an industry sponsor based on student choice and background at the beginning of the course.

The Faculty

Two Carnegie Mellon HCII faculty members advise and mentor the student teams. Faculty meet with the students on a weekly basis to provide guidance on scope, time management and to ease communications across the student teams and sponsors. Faculty also lead weekly capstone lectures for the cohort.

IP, Contracts and Gifts

Carnegie Mellon University is a non-profit organization. Legally our students own the intellectual property they develop in the performance of the course. In order to participate in a sponsored project, students are required to sign a non-exclusive, royalty-free license. Any additional rights by the sponsored company are negotiated directly with the students at the completion of the project.

View a sample of past Capstone projects in the research section of our website.

January 31, 2018

Application Deadline

The application for the 2018 academic year will open in late September of 2017.

Application closed

Sponsor a Capstone Project

To learn more about opportunities to sponsor an MHCI Capstone project, please contact:

Skip Shelly, MHCI Faculty Director
Human-Computer Interaction Institute
Carnegie Mellon University
sshelly [at] cs.cmu.edu